US Chesed News

Volunteers from Barnet start the New Year with a Mitzvah
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Thursday 2nd October 2014

This year, on both days of Rosh Hashanah, volunteers from Barnet Synagogue have once again have gone out of their way to visit people in the area who are unwell, whether that is in Barnet Hospital,  local care homes  or in a couple of cases, visiting people in their own homes. They are really putting Bikkur Cholim (visiting the sick) into practice.  Barnet members also visit the hospital on Yom Kippur.

Over Yom Tov many patients in hospital and residents in care homes feel very isolated. Giving them good company, some honey cake and the sound of the shofar can do much to raise their spirits. So while many of the rest of us might just be taking it easy after a long morning at Shul and a big lunch, this is not the case for Harris and his teams. Now you might think that this is a fairly simple process – you just get a few people who agree to go and then they just turn up. Not at all. This is an operation that requires major logistics and the person who leads on this is Harris Rosenberg.

Just to give you a small idea of what this involves,

  • Arranging for honey cakes for the patients and care home residents – provided by Jewish Visiting and sponsored by a kind donor together with bottles of water for the visiting teams.
  • Getting volunteers who can blow the Shofar and are willing/able to walk to the relevant location
  • Providing identification tags for all the visitors – these were donated by Hallstar Stationary and prepared by Susie Shaw
  • Liaison with both the Lead Chaplain for the hospital and the Jewish Chaplain, as well as the Care Home managers to get the necessary authorisations
  • Paying a pre Yom Tov visit to the hospital to get an idea of the number of Jewish patients to visit and the wards that they are on – bearing in mind this is subject to frequent change
  • Giving the visitors guidance on issues such as suitable clothing – short-sleeves insisted upon due to risk of infection, the use of hand sanitisers, always introducing yourself and saying why your are visiting, not disturbing patients who are asleep, when to blow the shofar – taking account of the number of Jewish patients in the ward, people who are interested,  etcetera, etcetera
  • Arranging with Rabbi Lerer a pre-Rosh Hashanah shiur on all the Halachic rules concerning the blowing of the shofar
  • Singing songs and saying the brachot over apple and honey in the care homes visited.

As Harris says “This means so much to people and in many cases helps them with their recovery and physical and mental well-being. For many patient and residents, the visit will not only be the highlight of their day but possibly – especially in the care homes – of their week.

Michelle Minsky, Head of US Chesed said “ So much time and thought goes into these visits, to ensure that the patients and residents get the most out of it, but equally that nobody is disturbed by the sounds of a Shofar, when as far as they are concerned it is just a lot of noise! It is a difficult balancing act but one that Harris and his group of volunteers try tremendously hard to achieve.  Our thanks go to all the visitors, too many to name here, but including a group of young people led by Zechariah Creeger.